From the legacy of the Greater Shawlands Republic is born a new movement, inclusive and democratic, one fit for the aspirations of the people and which reflects the culture and energy of a Greater Southside Republic.
As a founder member of this GSR, I welcome any initiatives which benefit the southside, but am duty-bound to raise the eyebrow of doubt when necessary.
So. There is a Clyde the Commonwealth Games mascot statue now resident in Queens Park. Is it art, we wonder, as we look at Clyde, stripped of his original livery in favour of a one-coat colour which brutally combines bland with horrible. Is the artist making comment on the Commonwealth Games legacy?
Perhaps, but such musing is a distraction. This statue is agit-prop, reversed. Glasgow City Council wanted those Commonwealth Games. We of the southside never voted for them. Yet, those games happened. And GCC rubs our rebellious noses in it by erecting a Clyde the mascot statue in Queens Park.
For those of us who have been campaigning for an autonomous southside, this is like raising a statue of Putin in Kiev. This vainglorious folly, this creepiest of mascots: this thing which you would not want to see climbing in your window at half one in the morning and asking you if you wanted your picture taken with it. This totem pole, must go.
We will devise our own mascot. Our insignia. Our flag. For the Southside. For this place of ours: this Texas of Glasgow, expansive and peculiar under the southern sky. The Great Swathe, they once called it, back when rievers would herd drovers from Stewarton to the counting toll at Dixon Road.
Blessed with parks. Open spaces. The Great Swathe, indeed. Where now the dog walker reigns, poop-scooper as a sceptre, poly bag as an orb. Walking the parks of the south. Sniffing art everywhere. The gateway to Ayrshire too, these lands - if coming to the south from the north-east. A place of contradictions, or perhaps not.
And, as the Romans had the Coliseum, so, it seems, will Shawlanders soon have a civic square. Will this square be artistic in and of itself? Will it be designed by Gordon Mathieson? Will it be didactic? If so, how so? Ipso facto, if it is built-o, the GSR proposes to enhance the traffic and traffic-gazing experience at that civic square at that busy Shawlands Cross junction by the simple use of a dancing traffic cop. Funk music blaring from a nearby building, dancing traffic cop shaking it, commuters happy, people smiling. No brainer. Give the guy a whistle and you’ve got a tourist attraction. A coffee kiosk and a crepe stall in the civic square, to cope with the incoming “traffic cop tourists”: put on special events for them, like a weekend recreation of the battle of Langside using only mime and found objects, thus - Mary’s horsemen are depicted by supermarket trolleys, Regent Moray by a discarded glove.
Have a festival there in the summer. Like Sonar in Barcelona - but it is in Shawlands, opposite The Shed. A festival. And how did we get here? Simple: a dancing traffic cop.
Don’t let anyone tell you this stuff is difficult. Economic growth? It’s not an art. I’m not an artist. Never claimed to be. Never qualified. Indeed, the recent blaze at Glasgow School of Art brought memories of my short time there, when I tried to use bonfire as a medium.
It didn’t work as intended. I was thrown off the course and left under a cloud. A cloud of ash, actually.
Still though, and to this day, being a man of the left who lives in the south, I’m drawn to the periphery, drawn like a moth to an e-cigarette. Drawn to the grand gesture and the simple detail of ambitious artwork. Drawn to that place where the lines between art and sedition are blurred. Southsiders of my generation will recall the arrests in the 1980’s after a flat in James Gray Street, Shawlands, was thought to have been an arms cache for a paramilitary group, the so-called Titwood Volunteers. Red faces all round when it emerged that what the police had busted was the now notorious, site-specific installation, “safe house.”
Such imagination defines the southside. But where exactly is this “southside”? Many will disagree on the specific boundaries, some will cite feudal disputes, others of a Zen character will suggest that southside is a state of mind and that we are, all of us, somehow southside inside.
The GSR sees the following delineation. Imagine the main Glasgow bridges on our side of the river Clyde: draw a pencil line south, to skirt Rutherglen on it’s west side; continue south to just before East Kilbride (let me state again, unequivocally, we have at no time discussed annexation of East Kilbride); then swing west all the way to Beith and then back up to the start, skirting Paisley on its eastern perimeter.
So, the golden triangle. The Horn of the South.
A horn of cultural depth, one with a notion of identity, with sources of excellence and arable land, but yet one which looks enviously west to the vast timber resources of Clyde Muirshiel Regional park and the lucrative trade routes beyond at Skelmorlie, Largs, Fairlie.
Such expansionism remains a dream though, while Glasgow City Council bribes the south with a new bit of pavement in Shawlands and a Clyde mascot statue. For these are crumbs from the table. These are the rolled-up tights with which Glasgow hopes to muffle the horn of the south - but we may yet hear its rallying call as we gather with solidarity in this new civic square, which we should immediately christen Southside Plaza and occupy with our public meetings. How ironic if Glasgow’s gift becomes the voice of the horn, and from it a message of decentralisation.
Also, we’d like to see all Glasgow-bound trains which use southside stations carry a sign saying Babylon Central.
These and other policy ideas are currently under discussion by the Greater Southside Republic and will be available for public consultation once a timetable has been established.